|Image1. Me in my finished baidarka!|
I was keen to build the kayak as we had just moved to our new home in the Turku archipelago so the there was a lot of beautiful scenery to paddle in. As I did not have any experience building kayaks i relied solely on the great book by Wolfgang Brinck; the Aleutian kayak.
The book is excellent and gives detailed step by step instructions on how to build a canvas covered-baidarka. As this was my first kayak I didn´t want to experiment to much and stuck to the plan in the book so the kayak is pretty much the same size as the baidarka in Brincks book.
I did want to use as much ”traditional” raw materials for the kayak as possible. Sealskin was not an option however so I got my hands on two processed cow hides. As I was lucky I also got my hands on some seal fat from Baltic Grey Seal. I also had lots of sinew at hand an a pile of junk wood to work with.
The only wood I had to buy was the wood for the gunwales and I also bought 8 stringers from the local lumberyard. I made the kayak ribs out of rowan shoots, which grows in large quantities around here. I like rowan because it's a though wood that bends and retains shape fairly easily.
|Image 2. The finished frame.|
|Image 3. The two piece bow.|
|Image 4.The wet skin folded over the frame.|
I sew the seams with twisted sinew thread and folded the seams once over as instructed in Brincks book.
|Image 5. The skin was sewn with sinew thread.|
When the skin was sewn on the kayak it was so heavy I could not lift it. The following day the skin had dried enough so i was able to lift the kayak outside to dry in the wind
|Image 6. Air drying the kay|
When the skin was taunt as a drum i smeared two layers of boiled seal fat on the skin. The cent of that is quite unique and I am sure any old kayaker would have felt right at home with the aroma. For my part I will always associate that particular scent with kayaking and having later tried out glass-fiber kayaks i have noticed that I have in some ways missed the cent of the seal fat on the skin. I guess it's the same with people who have traditional wooden boats, they also develop a fondness for the smell of tar.
|Image 7. Out for a spin!|
During the exiting first test drive the kayak felt a bit dippy but once in the water I felt right at home. The seam at the middle of the baidarka did however not hold water so small quantities leaked in and as a result the kayak skin became soggy, because the skin had only been oiled on the outside. As the skin became soggy I could feel the draft increasing. Well I made it back on land and got the kayak back home to dry. As it had dried I smeared a little mixture of my own on the inside on the seam and this worked all right, but it had to be re-checked after the kayak had been in water because the skin would get a little moist and stretch, as it dried it got taunt and this effected the filling I had in the seams. The skin also needed some oiling from time to time. The oil made the skin transparent in some places.
|Image 8. A view towards the stern of the baidarka.|
I also used the baidarka in colder weather during the spring of 2004. It was an amazing experience to paddle a real skin kayak among ice-sheets. It felt truly nice. But as real skins have to be renewed after a while I decided to deposit it at the Arctic Museum Nanoq in Pietarsaari
|Image 9. The baidarka resting on an icy beach.|
To make the kayak I used approx. 35 m hand twined sinew thread, 7 m of lines made out of hide, 70 meters of linen thread and two whole cow skins. It took about 200 hours to make the kayak, not including the time it took to gather the materials. It is 509 cm long and the dry weight of the kayak is around 14 kg.
Reading tips and literature about baidarkas
Brinck, Wolfgang 1995. The Aleutian Kayak: Origins, Construction, and Use of the Traditional Seagoing Baidarka. Ragged Mountain Press.
Jochelson, Waldemar 1933. History, Ethnology and Anthropology of the Aleut. Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Lantis, Margeret 1988. Aleut. Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 5, p.161-84. Sturtevant, William C. (Ed.). Smithsonian Institution, Washington.
Varjola, Pirjo 1990. The Etholén Collection; The ethnographic Alaskan collections of Adolf Etholén and his contemporaries in the National Museum of Finland. National Board of Antiquities, Vammalan kirjapaino Oy.
Zimmerly, David W & Gardinier, Paul 2000. Qayaq : Kayaks of Alaska and Siberia. University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks.
Image 1: Folke Pahlman
Image 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9: Marcus Lepola
Image 7: John Hackman